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Cowboys draft 2023 scouting report: Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer

A popular name for the Cowboys in recent days has been Michael Mayer. Let’s get a closer look.

Boston College v Notre Dame Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

A continuing series of scouting reports for potential Cowboys draft picks.

Name: Michael Mayer
Position: TE
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 249 pounds

Michael Mayer Career Stats, courtesy of Sports Reference

Combine Results: 4.7 40-yard dash, 32.5” vertical, 9’10” broad

Michael Mayer has been on NFL radars for quite some time now. A native of Kentucky, Mayer was a high school star that graded out as a five-star prospect, the second best tight end in his class, and the 32nd best player in the whole nation. He had offers from all the blue bloods - Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, you name it - and chose Notre Dame in the end. Upon his commitment, Mayer received comparisons to Zach Ertz and Jason Witten, setting lofty expectations.

Mayer definitely did not disappoint. He had a solid debut with the Fighting Irish as a freshman before blossoming into a top weapon for the team the next two years. In 2021, Mayer set program records for most catches, yards, and touchdowns in a single season by a tight end. The next year, he broke his own touchdown record.

Mayer could’ve been a high draft pick a year ago if he were eligible, but now he enters one of the most stacked tight end classes in recent memory. Still, Mayer projects to be a first-round selection, and has recently gained a lot of steam as a possible pick for the Cowboys at 26th overall.

Receiving Ability: No tight end in this draft has more experience as a focal point of their passing game than Mayer. He led all tight ends in targets and had the second most catches; he was also top five in both categories a year ago. Mayer is especially adept at catching the ball in traffic, leading the nation in contested catch targets and securing a really strong 65.4% of those passes. Mayer led Notre Dame in receptions each of the last two years and led the team in yards this year; he’s used to a high volume of passes being thrown his way.

Hands: Mayer has very reliable hands, and that’s the result of good development. As a freshman, he dropped over 10% of his targets, but a full season in Notre Dame’s offseason program helped him become more secure at the catch point. Over the last two years, he has just seven drops on 196 targets.

Route Running: He is a very nuanced route runner, compensating for his average athleticism with fundamentally sound techniques. Still, he doesn’t generate much separation and appeared to be much more comfortable running routes the further inside he was aligned. Mayer isn’t a mismatch threat when lined up out wide, but his route running is solid enough to be a functional weapon in the passing game. There likely isn’t much more room for him to grow in terms of route running and separation, leaving him with a fairly high floor and fairly low ceiling.

Blocking: Mayer is one of the best blocking tight ends in this draft class, arguably the best, and it’s why so many refer to him as the most pro-ready tight end. He’s got the right frame, strength, and willingness to succeed as a blocker, and he also has the fundamentals to hold up well in most cases. He still offers additional value going out to run routes, but he will more than hold his own when blocking.

Athleticism: Mayer is an average athlete, which gets highlighted in comparison to all of the elite athletes in this tight end class. His 40-yard dash was the best drill measurement, and that only came in at the 80th percentile. Overall, Mayer’s Relative Athletic Score of 7.66 ranked 19th among tight ends in this draft. It never limited his ability to produce in college, but it also gives Mayer a lower ceiling than athletic freaks like Dalton Kincaid, Luke Musgrave, and Darnell Washington.

Size: He has good size for the position and uses it well. He’s not the biggest or tallest in this class, but he fits the prototypical size profile for an NFL tight end.

Intangibles: Mayer is practically the model for what NFL tight ends have been over the past few decades, equally capable as both a blocker and pass catcher. But some teams are embracing an evolution of the position and looking more for athletic freaks who are essentially receivers in a tight end’s body. That leads to a tricky situation for Mayer, who may have a smaller list of teams that he’d be a good fit for. That said, the team he is a good fit for will be lining up to secure his services because he’s that good.

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